Independent boutiques, artsy corners and a prominent café culture are just some of the big draws in Södermalm, Stockholm’s hipster quarter. Throw in an eclectic nightlife scene and on-trend restaurants opening on the regular, and you have the ideal base for leisure time after your sightseeing. (It’s also where you’ll find cheaper, character-packed hotels than the city centre’s grand dames.)
Flicking through scenic images of Stockholm has likely conjured up an image of quaint, regal Swedish history – but it’s one that glosses over the delightful contrasts between the city’s individual boroughs. In Södermalm – known to the locals as Söder – it’s all about the vibe. There’s a playfulness to this creative district that contrasts with the museum-stacked tourist centre and smart business areas.
This is where you come to dip into Stockholm’s laid-back side – and you’ll find it at its liveliest on the weekends.
If you’re interested in Sweden’s arty, fashionable side, you must squeeze in a visit to Fotografiska, the country’s top photography museum. Set inside a striking, industrial red-brick building on the waterfront that was once the city’s Customs House, a selection of exhibitions from world-renowned photographers awaits.
Self-guided walking tour
The best way to explore a city is by walking. Set out on the one-hour, self-guided walking tour sketched out on the GPSMyCity app, which takes you through the district’s narrow, cobbled streets, stopping by iconic landmarks such as Stockholm City Museum and Katarina Kyrka.
For stunning panoramic views, a short trek to Skinnarviksberget – Sweden’s highest natural viewpoint – is recommended. Climb up the rocky hilltop to join locals drinking their shop-bought beers and watching the colourful sunset over the river.
Follow the steep, cobbled streets to find Södra Teatern, a cultural venue with its own postcard views of Stockholm. Visit the auditorium to catch a concert by local or international musicians inside the cherry-red and gold-trimmed hall.
A stone’s throw away from the main street lies Södra Sällskapet, a dimly lit restaurant with an eccentric but homey feel courtesy of its maximalist décor – think animal-print seats and a garden-like back room. Order small plates to share and fully appreciate the tapas-style menu.
Tuck into a seafood platter from Urban Deli, a sort of Whole Foods heaven with the option to dine in or out – their Nytorget branch is plum in the Södermalm area. Here you can pick up cooked and smoked shrimps, delicate oysters, sweet crab, and meaty lobster with four sauces, including a lemon-infused dip. If the weather permits, eat it while soaking up the sun on their outdoor terrace.
Cafe Älskade Traditioner
Sustainability is everything at Älskade Traditioner, a retro 1950s-inspired cafe with a zero-waste policy and a diner vibe: black and white checkerboard floors and red leather seats. There‘s a reason its name translates to “Beloved Traditions” – expect Sweden’s greatest hits on a plate, including cookies, cakes, sweet and savoury waffles and, of course, this nation’s famous meatballs.
Swahili Street Food
Swahili Street Food brought a piece of Kenya to Stockholm when it opened its doors. Once a popular food truck, now a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, this is your introduction to Kenyan cuisine, with a menu of hearty delights – think beef stew, samosas, fried tilapia fish – that changes weekly.
It goes without saying that Swedes love their terraces. When the sun comes out, so do the wooden patio chairs at Snaps – a bar and bistro housed in a 17th-century palace in the heart of the Medborgarplatsen square. Relish a beer or wine amongst locals while listening to Europop blaring from the speakers.
If you love contemporary music, from EDM to house, Lilla Hotellbaren, is the bar for you. Don’t overlook it because it’s part of a hotel – the Scandic Malmen – this is where heaving crowds of locals come to enjoy live DJs and performances every week. Try one of the 17 beers on tap.
If you want a bar with a view, make a beeline for Himlen, a sky bar on the 26th floor of the Skrapan shopping centre, with dazzling views of the cityscape below. Sip your espresso martini at golden hour – then when hunger strikes, head to the restaurant downstairs.
Decorating at home? Snap up unique crafts and folk art made by local artisans in Africa, Latin America and Asia at Södermalm fave Afro Art, a conscious shop that imports its vividly coloured items directly from the makers.
Surfers and beach bums should make a point of stepping into 6/5/4 – a concept store with the comfy feel of a living room – to find surfboards, beachwear, and everything else that an ocean lover could ever want.
If you’re into thrift shopping, a visit to Emmaus Vintage is not to be missed. The small pre-loved fashion boutique – the oldest of its kind in vintage-loving Stockholm – is packed with affordable items, some as cheap as 100 SEK (£8). Go early in the day if possible – it gets packed later on.
This hotel has a fab location, just minutes from Medborgarplatsen’s super-central Metro station. Stay here if you want sophisticated, affordable rooms close to the action: restaurants, bars, theatres, clubs and coffee shops.
A blend of past and present can be found at Hellstens Glashus, a three-star hotel near to both hip Södermalm and Stockholm’s picturesque Old Town. Stone-clad rooms, dark marbled bathrooms and rustic wooden beams are as much of a draw as the striking, mirrored glass exterior.
Trying to fly less?
You can get to Stockholm entirely by train from the UK. Take the Eurostar from London to Brussels Midi, followed by an ICE3 service from Brussels to Cologne, and a EuroCity train to Hamburg. Overnight here, then take a Danish Intercity service to Copenhagen, and an X2000 train onward to Stockholm.
From September 2022, the Hamburg-Stockholm EuroNight sleeper train will make this even speedier, allowing you to reach Stockholm within 24 hours.
Fine with flying?
Several airlines, including British Airways, Ryanair, Norwegian and SAS, fly direct from the UK to Stockholm.